Fears are growing that the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice may be forced to shut or severely cut services because of a lack of Government funding.
Representatives of the charity, which cares for young people with life-limiting illnesses, met with Stormont’s health committee to voice their concerns.
The meeting was held yesterday, where members of the Children’s Hospice told MLAs the facility was under threat of closure.
Around £500,000 is allocated to the charity by the Government each year, but members say it takes £3m to operate the hospice, built just eight years ago.
Hospice chief executive Judith Hill said that vital services had already been cut.
“We are having to curtail services to match funding.
“We have had to move back to six beds a week, we did have eight open, so we’re having to prioritise and share it about a bit more.
“We are having to limit the amount of support to families in the home as well,” she said.
Mrs Hill said that she and the other members had received a warm reception at yesterday’s talks and committee members had listened to their concerns. DUP MLA Jim Wells chaired the meeting.
Afterwards he told the Belfast Telegraph that he had been touched by the stories he had heard.
“It was extremely compelling listening to the stories of the children who use the hospice, it was almost distressing to hear.
“It was emotional because when you are dealing with the death of a child it’s horrible,” he said.
Mr Wells said that the Children’s Hospice should be given the same amount of funding as hospices in the rest of the UK.
“I would be very surprised if the committee does not support fully for us to be put on an equal footing with the rest of the UK.
“At present 82% of the total cost must be raised in Northern Ireland, whilst in GB they only have to raise 70%,” he said.
The South Down MLA said that £10,000 had to be raised each day to run both the children’s and adult hospices in Belfast and said that this task was becoming more difficult because of the economic situation.
“It all has to be raised through sponsored walks and raffles and other events and this has become very difficult,” he said.
He urged Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to commit to the “relatively small” amount of funding the hospice needs.
In a statement released after the meeting Mr McGimpsey defended the amount of money given by his department to Northern Ireland’s hospices.
“Since 2008, £205,000 has been allocated each year to develop outreach nursing services from the Children's Hospice. And from 2010 a further £245,000 has been allocated each year to the Children's Hospice to support the provision of services.
“My department's budget for next year has not yet been finalised and until such time it is not possible to provide a definitive statement of funding arrangements,” he said.